Saturday, April 04, 2009

Electric Blanket Safety - Morphy Richards Winterwarm

I'm making this post because of a disturbing safety issue which I feel there should be a record on the Web about. It could have killed us!

A few days ago, just after the alarm went off to wake us up, my wife leapt up in bed, pulled the sheet off the mattress and frantically reached for the power switch to switch off our double size, Morphy Richards Winterwarm electric underblanket. At the same time there was the unmistakable smell of burning.

She'd turned over in bed and seen a red glow through the sheet and heard sizzling.

Here's what we found on turning over the blanket corner:

This electric blanket has a removable plug which allows the blanket to be washed. Just where the cable enters the plug it had burnt through and was busy burning a hole in the blanket itself and, given time, would have set fire to the sheet and mattress.

I did a little research and discovered in the UK alone in 2008 there were 1,000 housefires attributed to faulty electric blankets. 20 people were killed and 250 were injured. Checking further revealed that 99% of these fires were caused by blankets over ten years old.

This electric blanket was just 9 months old! It had never been washed, had not been moved and the cable was in a position where it was not subject to any movement or stress. The fuse fitted to the blanket did not burn out.

I notified the manufacturer of the problem - and got an apparently 'concerned' reply but which ended 'We regret that we are unable to be of any further assistance with your enquiry and assure you of our best attention at all times.'

Argos, the supplier took my concern more seriously. They sent it away for tests and invited me to claim compensation for any damage caused.

In this case we were lucky, apart from a tiny scorch mark to mattress and sheet there was no injury or damage. We were awake when it happened; but what would have happened if it had failed at 3:00am when we were fast asleep? This has shaken my confidence in electric blankets and no matter what Morphy Richards say - I won't sleep with one switched on again.

In all fairness to Morphy Richards I have to report that they contacted me again after apparently reading this blog. It seems that the Winterwarm range is exclusively supplied through Argos on the understanding that Argos deal with all following consumer contact. This was not made clear in Morphy Richards first e-mail. Morphy Richards are now apparently trying to locate the blanket for detailed assessment.
I bought two of these blankets though and as far as the second one is concerned - I can detect no sign of the same problem but have warned my son not to leave it on at night.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Danone - Should it be Damn One?

You must have seen the adverts for Danone products Activia Yogurt.

We buy the fig and date versions and decided to try the peach and vanilla versions also. What we didn't notice was the small text on the wrapper saying 'fat free yogurt with fruit, sugar and sweeteners'

Sweeteners in a so called 'healthy' product? Getting out a magnifying glass to read the 4 point text on the carton I checked to see just what sweetener was being used. In the Peach I found Aspartame and Acesulfame.

Now the Acesulfame is bad enough - it's only suspected of having 'significant doubt' as to its safety but what sort of idiot manufacturing a 'healthy food' includes Aspartame? There are an unbelievable number of complaints that this stuff is suspected of (See

Now if Damnone (oops sorry - Danone) can make such a blunder what about their other claims?

'Did you know 56% of healthy women report that they experience digestive discomfort from time to time?' - What an astonishing statistic. I wonder where they got it from. I suspect probably out of the air since I'm pretty certain that 100% of people - male or female, would admit to having digestive discomfort at some time in their life.

'Contains the unique live culture BIFIDUS ACTIREGULARIS®' - Now just what does that mean? First 'unique' is defined as being 'the only one of its kind'. Danone - I've news for you - it's a bacteria and there are billions of them! Maybe Danone have a unique strain of this bacteria? Nope - it seems to be Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. animalis, strain DN-173 010 That's a bacteria commonly found in animal bowels and by no means unique. Danone have given it a new (and unofficial) name, BIFIDUS ACTIREGULARIS® and trade marked it. Hey - what a brilliant idea. If we all do that no one will know that this common bacteria is in no way special.

'82% of people with digestive discomfort said they felt better after eating ACTIVIA' - Err - How long after? Would they have felt better after a few hours anyway? Did they attribute feeling better to eating ACTIVIA - you didn't say!

'It tastes fantastic too' - Nope - it used to taste OK but you ruined it by putting artificial sweeteners in, giving it a lingering after taste.

So why did they add this rubbish? Maybe it's one of these reasons:
  • Artificial sweeteners are cheaper than sugar so you can make more profit. In fact Aspartame seems to work out as being 1/2000th the cost of the sugar required for equal sweetness
  • You can claim it's less fattening.
  • Less sugar means less tooth decay (We'll just choose to ignore the tooth eating acid in the yogurt and fruit)
  • This paticular sweetner has a reputation of producing a craving for more. That means that instead of eating one pot you might eat two. That of course would increase the product's sales. Danone wouldn't do that... would they?

Guess what? Danone just lost another customer for this product.


Now for the positive side of Danone's yoghurt. In December my family adopted a kitten found abandoned on a farm. He was such a sweet thing and so friendly we couldn't understand why anyone would abandon him at about 7 weeks old. When we got him home we discovered his awful secret. To put it bluntly his farts smelt awful and he did lots of them!

We wormed him and gave him a kitten diet of 'Science Plan'. No improvement. Then I had an idea and gave him about a teaspoon of Danone 'Bifidus Actiregularis®' yoghurt. Displaying a good deal more sense than many humans he wouldn't touch the Aspartame sweetened version but really enjoyed the other versions. His smelly farts quickly disappeared.

So if you have a problem with smelly farts from your pet (or maybe yourself) just add Danone yoghurt to your diet for a while.